The years between 1815-1848 saw the rise of a number of related and competing ideologies, one of them being Socialism. Socialism sought economic equality for all, and was very much against the the Laissez Faire ideal of liberalism. There were different forms of socialism as it evolved over the years. Throughout the 19th century, Europe saw an uprising and evolution of socialism led by key names Karl Marx, Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and Robert Owen. It created equality for the majority of workers and prompted ideas of revolution.
Socialism was partly rooted in the French Revolution, with a number of radical Jacobins taking the idea of political equality for all and moving it to the next step: economic equality for all through the common ownership of all property. The earliest socialist writers were coined “Utopian Socialists” by Karl Marx. Marx believed the earliest socialists offered non-scientific, unrealistic solutions to the problems of modern society. One of the influential early socialist thinkers was Count Henri de Saint-Simon.
He argued the key to progress was proper organization.
He also thought in highly moralistic terms. He said that every social institution must make improving conditions for the poor their main goal. In around 1830, another socialist thinker emerged: Charles Fourier. He took another approach. He was a fierce defender of freedom of choice. He established utopian communities, each with 1,620 people, where free love and voluntary unions were the norm. Many women were enthusiastic followers of Fourier because he was an early proponent of the total emancipation of women.
The socialist Louis Blanc fought for a whole different right. He wanted the right to work. He believed the government should provide jobs when the private sector could not. These early Socialists birthed the ideology, but they had relatively little impact in comparison with Marx’s proletarian socialism. In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto, which became the bible of socialism. Early Socialism was most prevalent in France, since it benefited the majority of citizens.
It was mostly concentrated in France because early French utopian socialists interacted with the experiences of French urban workers. Workers cherished the memory of the radical phase of the French Revolution, and they despised the laissez-faire laws that denied workers the right to organize. Workers favored collective action and government intervention in economic life. These aspirations of the workers directly connected to utopian theorists, and a genuine socialist movement emerged in Paris in the 1830’s.
From here, Karl Marx was left the task of establishing effective socialist foundations. Socialist ideas favored the working class, because the primary reason it started was to make the proletariats more equal to the bourgeoisie. Socialism looked at the free-market economies of Western Europe in the midst of the Industrial Revolution and saw exploited workers leading miserable existences while manufacturers profited enormously. Socialists felt that since the rich benefited so much, the poor should get some benefits too, since their labor supported the entire system.
Karl Marx even predicted that the proletariat class would one day arise and supplant those capitalists who had exploited them. The Revolts of 1848 represented the power of the middle and lower classes. These revolts were started as an attempt to achieve universal male suffrage. The socialists showed the workers there is a solution to the severely divided social classes. The proletariats attempted to destroy the bourgeoisies for economic equality. The middle class were the victims and many lives were taken in 1848 during the horrific “June Days.
Because of the lack of leadership and organization, the working class failed in their revolution. These revolts represented the idea of socialism but also showed how much power the upper classes possessed. It is almost impossible to have a perfect socialist society and the socialists and working class of 19th century Europe failed to create one. However, the revolts and ideas of socialist thinkers showed how important the working class is. Socialism is a very important factor in the history of the 19th century. That influence has extended into present days, where there are still socialist ideologies.